By Pathik Hasan
South Asian neighbors Bangladesh and Bhutan have a harmonious relationship on the strength of their mutual interest, shared history and culture. On December 6, 1971, Bhutan and India became the first countries to recognize the independence of Bangladesh. Bangladesh-Bhutan ties started to deepen from this period. Bhutan and Bangladesh can work together in the sectors of information and communication technology, agriculture, horticulture and fisheries to enhance trade and investment relations between Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Bangladesh and Bhutan have excellent relations in various fields including trade investment, communication, education, cultural exchange, people-to-people contact, tourism.
Bhutan is a loyal, true friend of Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh are always grateful to the government and people of that country for their unwavering support and cooperation in the war of liberation in 1971. Bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Bhutan are very good. Over time, this relationship is reaching new heights.
Bangladesh and Bhutan signed the ‘Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA)’ on December 06, 2020. This is Bangladesh’s first priority trade agreement or PTA with any other country in the world.
As per this agreement of Bangladesh with Bhutan, 100 products of Bangladesh will get duty free facility in Bhutan and 34 products of Bhutan will get duty free facility in Bangladesh. As a result, trade relations between the two countries will increase further.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, trade between the two countries in 2018-2019 is 56.90 million US dollars.
Bhutan imports vegetables and fruits, minerals, construction materials, boulder, limestone, coal, pulp and chemicals from Bangladesh. On the other hand, garments, furniture, food items, medicines, plastics and electrical products made in Bhutan are exported from Bangladesh.
Duty-free market facility
Since 2010, Bangladesh has been providing duty-free market access to Bhutan on 18 products. Besides, 90 products of Bangladesh are getting duty free market facilities in the Bhutan market. Bhutan is the largest exporter of stone to Bangladesh. Bangladesh is Bhutan’s second-largest export market.
All ports of Bangladesh can be potential for Bhutan
According to Bangladeshi media outlets, PM Sheikh Hasina commented that Bhutan can use Bangladesh’s Chittagong, Mongla, Payra seaport and Syedpur airports including river ports of Bangladesh if it wants. They can also set up warehouses anywhere in Bangladesh if they want to facilitate inland transport.
Bhutan wants to use our river routes from Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh to take goods to Dhubri port in India. Bhutan is very close to Dhubri, so they want to use the rivers of Bangladesh to transport goods there. Bangladesh has shown a positive attitude towards bringing and taking goods through Roumari-Chilmari.
Besides, Bangladesh has initially agreed to allow Bhutan to import and export goods by rail. To this end, the Rohanpur-Singabad rail route between Bangladesh and India will be launched.
Three land ports can bring the potential for both countries
At one time trade with Bhutan was done only through Burimari land port. However, Bangladesh has now allowed the use of land ports at Tamabil, Banglabandha and Nakugaon as an initiative to increase trade by land.
Traffic between the four countries
There has been a discussion between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) on the movement of passenger, private and freight vehicles by road. Once the agreement is completed, the residents of the four countries will get many benefits while moving from one country to another. However, the other three countries agreed to the agreement, but due to the environment, the Bhutanese parliament has not yet agreed to the agreement.
Most of the total hydropower generated in Bhutan is not needed. Bangladesh has shown interest in buying this electricity.
However, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering stressed the need for trilateral talks to bring it through India during his visit to Bangladesh in March 2021.No agreement has been reached yet, but it has been discussed at various meetings between the two countries.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and the Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering have emphasized building the necessary infrastructure to avail the maximum benefits of the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) signed between Bangladesh and Bhutan. The two Prime Ministers discussed cooperation between the two countries in various sectors including trade and connectivity.
Bhutan and Bangladesh have already agreed to operate naval routes between the two countries to expand Bangladesh-Bhutan trade. Bhutan and Bangladesh also emphasized building more seaports. Besides. A bilateral or tripartite memorandum of understanding would be potential for the construction of cooperative hydropower plants.
Lotte Schering requested one-time full-term visas and multiple-entry facilities for Bhutanese students studying in Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed with the Prime Minister of Bhutan on the issue and directed the concerned parties to take necessary steps in this regard.
Bangladesh can cooperate with Bhutan in the IT sector including broadband internet. Bangladesh and Bhutan can work together in international forums including the United Nations.
The visit of Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering was very important. Because this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Bangladesh’s diplomatic relations with Bhutan as well as the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. At any rate, this is a very important and historic event for both countries. During his visit to Bangladesh, the Prime Ministers of the two countries reviewed the overall aspects of bilateral relations and expressed interest in enhancing mutual cooperation in various fields of potential.
Sheikh Hasina and Lotay Tshering discussed trade and investment, roads, rail and air communication, hydropower, bilateral and multilateral cooperation, health, education, agriculture, culture and increasing people-to-people contacts between the two countries. During this time several bilateral memoranda of understanding have been signed between the two countries. Earlier, the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) was signed between Bangladesh and Bhutan on December 6 last year; Which is of special importance in the expansion of inter-trade between the two countries.